October 2014

Should Motor Carriers 'Like' Social Media for Monitoring Drivers?

It is now commonplace for employers to check a prospective employee's social media page as part of the hiring process. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. are all easily reviewable by a potential employer. Some employers continuously monitor employee's updates throughout the employment relationship. Case law supports the employer's rights to view and act upon information in the public domain. When drivers post, update and tweet, they are oftentimes publishing their private information for public consumption. Should you, as a motor carrier, be using this information for hiring and monitoring employee conduct?

Many trucking companies use Social Media for advertising, driver recruiting, recognizing drivers, and announcing upcoming events. There are a myriad of trucking specific web pages. And then there are the driver's personal pages. These pages can be very revealing. The driver's state of mind is critically important – especially in the realm of safety. And drivers often reflect on how they feel about the company they drive for as well as the transportation industry as a whole; even their negative views on regulations and law enforcement. All too often, drivers may choose to share inappropriate or incriminating opinions, photos and videos on their page. Frequently, these images appear to be taken from the driver's seat while moving down the road. Social media evidence has been and will continue to be used in court. A recent article discussing legal issues relating to this topic stated, "The social media phenomenon is having a profound effect on every stage of litigation". This should be of concern to every employer.

As a motor carrier, you are legally responsible for your drivers' performance and for the condition of the equipment they operate. A carrier also has a responsibility to hire only safe drivers. Like the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP), social media is a useful tool that motor carriers can utilize in their ongoing effort to hire the best and monitor their behaviors in the cab to assure safe operations.

Establishing a program for monitoring a driver's social media page will consume time and resources. But such efforts are beginning to show their value to many motor carriers. It is prudent to always keep in mind that drivers are the face of your company. They represent you and your brand in every way. Facebook alone currently has over 101 million US daily users accessing the popular social media site via mobile devices. Are your drivers among these? A lawsuit was recently settled out of court for 1 million dollars. The crucial point was that the driver stated he was not using his cell phone while driving but his Facebook profile told a much different story. The driver later admitted to the use of his cell phone while at the controls of the vehicle.

Social media becomes more prevalent every day. If it hasn't already, it may soon become a valuable tool for you in managing your business.

Truckers cash in as freight demand surge lifts wages

Tommy Walters, hauling lawnmowers to Rhode Island from Maryland with his Boston terrier Daisy riding shotgun, is feeling flush these days after the biggest raise of his 17-year trucking career.

"Under the new pay scale, I'm looking at probably making over $60,000 a year," Walters, 40, said by telephone while waiting for a tire repair in Hagerstown, Maryland. "That's pretty exciting."

It's a big step up from Walters' usual $48,000 to $55,000, and he's not alone in an industry where drivers' wages haven't kept pace with the national average. Long accustomed to driver shortages, U.S. companies now find themselves fattening up paychecks to retain employees and handle surging freight demand.

U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc., Walters's employer, announced a 13 percent average boost in August, more than four times the industry-wide increase last year. It became the shot heard around the trucking business, outpacing Con-way Inc., Celadon Group Inc. and other competitors that have also raised pay to keep their trucks rolling.

"You have the early stages of what could be a wage war," said John Larkin, a Stifel Financial Corp. analyst in Baltimore. "It's hard for others to stand pat and not take pay up."


[But] Truckers can't afford soaring labor expenses, according to the ATA. Operating margins averaged 6.4 percent in the nine- company Bloomberg U.S. Truckload Trucking Index, trailing the 14 percent average for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index. Companies also say higher salaries aren't the best way to expand the ranks of potential drivers.

"Pay is important, but I don't think it's the driving force in the driver shortage," said Kevin Burch, an ATA vice chairman who is also president of Dayton, Ohio-based Jet Express Inc., where a lack of employees leaves some trucks sitting idle. "We're competing for an existing pool of drivers."

Many drivers who left trucking during the 2007-09 recession haven't returned as a U.S. oil and gas boom creates high-paying jobs and the construction industry rebounds.

"The exodus that we're getting doesn't compare at all to what we're bringing into the industry," Burch said. "It's hard to get people into it to fill the seats."

The ATA is trying to improve the industry's reputation with a promotional campaign that includes the showcasing of driving as a career option. Besides internal steps such as training dispatchers to be nicer to the drivers they direct, companies are asking shippers for flexibility in pickups and deliveries. The idea is to cut any wasted time after a driver arrives and then has to wait to complete a job, Burch said.

Employers also need to reach younger workers, putting them behind the wheel before they pick another path, Burch said.

"Nothing makes me more productive than the last minute." -Anonymous